Lot and lot is being written about the plight of the inhabitants of Uttarakhand villages thronging the cities and towns including the metropolises of the country,numbering massively, about 32 lakh people of the 17 year old Himalayan state defeating the very concept of economic self reliant and giving its people due justice in terms of decentralised all round development.
The state witnessing the fiscal deficit of staggering 40 thousand crores depending on merely 7 thousand crores of productive income from its own sources, with a begging bowl, seeking international aid and paying myriad amount of interest during the last more than one and a half decade after achieving statehood was never ever expected .
Today, while hundreds of Uttarakhand villages have become ghost villages after its inhabitants had to, under compelling circumstances migrate to plains devoid of basic job, educational and health facilities, what make things and situation even more shocking and worrisome is the fact that even prisoners freed from the clutches of tortuous jail sentence after several years of confinement behind four walls of the prisons prefer to feel safe and comfortable by being behind bars again, than to stay in their village to enjoy the freedom, the reason being that their villages have also become ghost villages due to the above reasons and natural calamities with the successive governments literally doing nothing to ensure the well being and welfare of the local inhabitants ruined due to these ecological disasters and holocausts resulting in their familes to go to unknown destinations for want of sustenance and enable their survival.
This story is about a prisoner Uma Dutt Bhatt of Bastadi village of Pithoragarh in Kumaon division of Uttarakhand where natural calamity due to cloud burst incidents resulted in several deaths and near total devastation of the village finally making it a ghost village due to the negligent and insensitive attitude of the state government and local administration for not reconstructing the village and rehabilitating its inhabitants in disarray due to the calamity of great magnitude.
A story published in the TOI explains such a sorry state of affairs of a prisoner who was imprisoned for life for the murder of his wife and child but when he reaches his village after the completion of his sentence, he shockingly finds it to be completely devastated and empty with nobody living there with completely ruined houses.
Feeling dejected and finding himself in utterly hapless position with his abondoned family, he had no option but to approach the prison authorities again to allow him to stay in the jail he passed the protracted sentence under the most difficult and unforeseen circumstances. Here is the sorry tale of one such prisoner published in TOI:
The Sitarganj jail in Uddham Singh Nagar received an unusual request when Pushkar Dutt Bhatt, who was released from the jail after serving 20 years, wrote that he wanted to go back to the jail.
Bhatt, who hails from Bastadi, a village in Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district, completed a life sentence in jail for the murder of his wife and daughter 20 years ago in a fit of rage.
According to a report in The Times of India, on his return in August last year to his native village, Bhatt was taken aback to see broken houses and an empty village. While he was in prison, the Uttarakhand flash floods in July 2016 that claimed the lives of 21 people, had driven out every resident of the village. There was no one left behind.
Bhatt, 52, reportedly said, “It was a ghost village. I was the only human being living there.” In an unusual request to the district administration, he has now requested that he should be sent back to the jail in Sitarganj, where he had spent 20 years of his life. “At least there are people there. Here there are only ghosts, sad memories,” he added.
Bhatt sent out the petition after having lived in Bastadi all alone for six months following his release from jail, reports TOI. Bhatt said he couldn’t take the “despair and loneliness” any longer. “I tried living all by myself alone among the ruins. But I can’t go on,” he added. The report also added that Bhatt told the district administration if the government has no plans to rehabilitate the village, he should be allowed to go back to prison where his life was better.
“There is neither water nor electricity in the village. Dozens of houses including mine are in ruins. Wild animals from the nearby jungle roam around freely. Almost two years have passed since the devastation happened but nobody has paid heed to the village. I have stayed there for the past year but I cannot bear to do so anymore. That is why I told district authorities to send me to jail again which is better for me,” Bhatt told TOI.
“I submitted a complaint in September last year but no action was taken. Then I went to the janta darbar held in the district on October 16 and gave my application again. Finally, I told the district magistrate that if the government was doing nothing about the village, then I have nowhere else but the jail to go to,” he added.